February 26, 2016

‘24 Hours for the Lord’ will highlight sacrament of penance

People wait in line outside of a confessional in Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis. The importance of the sacrament of penance in the life of faith is being emphasized in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis during the Holy Year of Mercy. Some archdiocesan parishes are making the celebration of the sacrament more widely available during “24 Hours for the Lord” on March 4-5. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

People wait in line outside of a confessional in Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis. The importance of the sacrament of penance in the life of faith is being emphasized in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis during the Holy Year of Mercy. Some archdiocesan parishes are making the celebration of the sacrament more widely available during “24 Hours for the Lord” on March 4-5. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When Pope Francis announced last April that the Church would observe a Holy Year of Mercy this year, he specifically called on dioceses throughout the world to observe “24 Hours for the Lord” on March 4-5.

He launched this initiative in 2015 in the Diocese of Rome as a time dedicated to prayer, and especially to make the sacrament of penance more widely available to the faithful.

By having dioceses around the world take up “24 Hours for the Lord,” the pope said in “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”) that he hoped the initiative would place the sacrament of penance at the center of the life of the Church, and would “enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands” (#17).

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin has asked parishes across central and southern Indiana to observe “24 Hours for the Lord,” but has allowed each faith community to determine how to do this in its own particular context.

Some parishes across the archdiocese will make the sacrament available over an extended period of time on March 4-5.

Confessions will be heard at St. Mary Church in Greensburg starting after an 8 a.m. Mass on March 4 through 8 p.m. The following day, priests will be available to celebrate the sacrament of penance from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

St. Mary Parish will collaborate in its observance of “24 Hours of the Lord” with its “Connected in the Spirit” cohort member, St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Decatur County, as well as Immaculate Conception Parish in Millhousen and St. Maurice Parish in Napoleon.

Franciscan Sister Shirley Gerth, parish life coordinator at St. Maurice and at St. John the Baptist Parish in Osgood, said the availability for the sacrament of confession over a long period of time sends a strong message.

“It makes a very important statement,” she said. “The fact that the priests are in the confessional all day long, that people can go when their schedule allows it—it says that we believe that this sacrament brings grace, and is a great help in the spiritual life.”

All Saints Parish in Dearborn County began offering 12 hours of availability for the sacrament of penance during Advent and Lent several years ago. When Father Jonathan Meyer became All Saints’ pastor two years ago, he saw how well the initiative was received by Catholics in the area and scheduled it for the first Friday of each month. Retired Msgr. Joseph Riedman assists him on such days.

On March 4, the sacrament of penance will be available as usual at the St. Martin campus of All Saints Parish from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

“To me, it’s inspiring,” said Father Meyer. “Our people are so strapped when it comes to their schedules. They want to go to confession, but they don’t have the time.”

In being available with Msgr. Riedman over a long period of time to celebrate the sacrament of penance, Father Meyer has seen a relatively large number of people availing themselves of the sacrament, noting that an average of 170 confessions are heard every first Friday.

“I love it,” Father Meyer said. “This is what I was ordained for. It’s really beautiful in that sense.”

To help Catholics across central and southern Indiana gain a renewed appreciation of the sacrament of penance, Archbishop Tobin has asked that all homilies preached in archdiocesan parishes on Feb. 27-28 and March 5-6 focus on the sacrament.

Many priests and deacons ministering in the archdiocese participated in a Feb. 18 workshop on preaching on the sacrament held at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

Benedictine Father Guerric DeBona, who teaches homiletics at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, led the workshop.

Additionally, the archdiocese’s annual Lenten Day of Sanctification for priests, to be held this year on March 1 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis, will focus on helping priests become better confessors.

Benedictine Father Kurt Stasiak, who teaches sacramental theology at Saint Meinrad, will lead the Day of Sanctification.

Msgr. William Stumpf, archdiocesan vicar general, said the two workshops are “critical” to helping all the faithful in central and southern Indiana, including priests who hear confessions, to renew the role that the sacrament of penance can play in their lives.

“They not only remind us how important the sacrament is as part of our ministry,” Msgr. Stumpf said. “They also remind us priests how important [the sacrament] is in our lives as well. The more that we are aware of that in our own lives, the better we can help other people understand the need for it and to experience it as well.”

Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship, said that helping priests to become better confessors will encourage more Catholics to come to the sacrament on a more regular basis.

“The impact of the priest in the context of confession is crucial,” he said. “At the very least, we have to strive for always being merciful, always rejoicing in the repentance that God has caused and will effect through the celebration of the sacrament.”

Father Beidelman hopes the emphasis placed in the archdiocese on the sacrament of penance during the Holy Year of Mercy and “24 Hours for the Lord” on March 4-5 will bring blessings to Catholics across central and southern Indiana.

“My hope is that some folks who may not have been connected to this artery of God’s mercy in our lives before take the opportunity now because of this initiative for the jubilee year,” he said. “More people approaching the sacrament of penance is a hope of mine.”
 

(For more information about the Holy Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.archindy.org/holyyearofmercy.)

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